OOM #10 – Funny Games (1997)

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Welcome to the past. I’m quickly posting these past entries trying to make it as if no one notices that I’m posting behind schedule. Valdivia was wilder than I expected, so here I am trying to cover my bases. Today we tackle the Michael Haneke film that I haven’t seen, the infamous ‘Funny Games’ (1997), which comes because on the Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness we had a strange day, where they didn’t talk about a movie nor anything in particular, as James and Mike just sat up and chatted about movies that aren’t put in the horror genre but should, or viceversa, and trying to discuss the matter, and it’s quite a compelling discussion that I’ve had myself for some time, about what we consider horror, and you can watch it here. And talking about dubious horror films, see what we tackle here today, and suddenly I realize that there aren’t any horror films between 1992 and 1997 that I could watch for this series (there was ‘Riget’ (1994), but it’s a miniseries that I’ve seen the first half of, so I don’t think it counts for this time, specially with the time I had). So, what did I think of this one? Carry on.

While I think that watching this film along the years in bits and pieces in different classes in film school has desensitized me towards its violence and the overall evil/malign forces at work here, but at the same time it managed to give me context and tools, enough for me to work things out and find the absolute perfect filmmaking work from Michael Haneke in this almost masterpiece of absolute dread and Brechtian experimentalism. Constantly feeling the need to tease its audience, ‘Funny Games’ (1997) is nothing more than an endurance test for an audience that is keen in participating in this game, one that Haneke has conjured from his disdain of modern violence as seen through the media, something that has obsessed him in other movies til this day. Since its opening credits, Haneke creates a mood, the need of a disruption, when the classic music that totally idealizes the picture while at the same time portrays and gives information about the kind of family that is going to be the protagonist, that is interrupted once we get to the title of the film, and we are made conscious not only to the fact that we are watching a film, but that maybe something violent will happen as we listen to loud death metal.

This movie might be Haneke’s most Bressonian, that is if Bresson were a nihilistic atheist, with its controlled camera positions and framing of people, faces and limbs moving in space doing actions choreographed perfectly, those that give the characters soul and an understanding, but at the same time as if they were nothing but mannequins, like was the intention of Bresson when directing his actors: precise movements, precise sense, precise sensations. Here it’s an abstraction and even an even harsher condensation of the visual style of Bresson (while still maintaining a Haneke soul in it) with the absence of any camera movements, those that gave the French director’s film the passion and the soul that they needed to convey the presence of something beyond the six walls of the frame, as if there was a higher being that we are going to eventually run into, but here it’s the absence of any of those thoughts that constrict the camera to a fixed position and frame for whatever length they have, the camera doesn’t move as there’s not much else to discover, there’s no God, there’s no soul, just the dread of present violence, one of which we are constant witness and watchful mourners.

Yet, the most graphic events of violence are deprived from our eyes, and we mostly see aftermaths, a body on the floor, a drop of blood, eggs crashing to the floor, bandages, all that would just get the violence-hungry audience something to groan about. In an intelligent manner Haneke decides to show only one act of pure bloody violence in full detail, as it is the moment that we most identify with the main characters, and what they are going through, but with what is maybe one of my favorite scenes in the history of cinema, Haneke manages to make you “pull out” of that investment put in the violated characters, we see them fail once again and we desperately think about what will happen next, what else is there to see, and truly we haven’t seen anything, that violence didn’t exist, it was erased from our memory, yet we are reminded constantly of the way that it happened, how we see the aftermath of all the violent events, much like how the TV news film bodies in the street, bloody and covered, showing us that violence, but depriving us from the pleasure that we could get out of it. A bloody TV might be an obvious statement at this time, but when this came out, it was bold and somewhat revolutionary. This is still a highly Brechtian film in the ways that it makes you think of this as “only a movie”, and in those terms, it’s perfect.

9/10

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